NFL referees make two brutal mistakes in Patriots’ loss

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - DECEMBER 18: Keelan Cole #84 of the Las Vegas Raiders catches the ball for a touchdown as Marcus Jones #25 of the New England Patriots defends during the fourth quarter at Allegiant Stadium on December 18, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - DECEMBER 18: Keelan Cole #84 of the Las Vegas Raiders catches the ball for a touchdown as Marcus Jones #25 of the New England Patriots defends during the fourth quarter at Allegiant Stadium on December 18, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) /

Generally, blaming the referees for a team’s loss is done by those who are sore losers. Although it may be justified to complain, it’s often met with criticism from those in and outside the fanbase. But because of the terrible decision-making the NFL referees have made over the years, is it still appropriate to accept their mistakes and move on, particularly when their bad officiating directly impacts the result of a game?

Clearly, the Patriots were on the receiving end of unfavorable calls on Sunday against the Raiders, and some may argue that the results of those bad calls are not the direct reason the team lost. Given how the game horrifically ended, that wouldn’t be entirely inaccurate. However, two brutal calls/non-calls made by the referees could’ve dramatically altered the way the game continued, and for that reason, it deserves to be addressed.

Third-quarter delaying of a quick snap by the Patriots

You may have noticed an angry Bill Belichick yelling at a referee on the sideline when watching in real-time. But why was he so angry? Upon further review, it appears the head referee is purposely not allowing the Patriots to go through with a quick snap to avoid a potential challenge by the Raiders.

Michael Hurley of WBZ – CBS Boston broke down the video in a tweet on Monday morning, posting two clips of the sequence showing the field as it unfolded and Belichick’s reaction on the sideline.

Offenses opting to get a play off before the opponent can challenge is nothing new, making the referees’ behavior much more bizarre and questionable.

The Patriots were not attempting to substitute any players at the time, which would make sense for the referee to be in that position. Alex Barth of 98.5 The Sports Hub followed up Hurley’s tweet mentioning that detail, even posting a snippet from the rulebook that applies to that very situation.

The ordeal seems cut-and-dry, considering how often a quick snap is done in the NFL and the referees’ clear violation of the rules. But Hurley responded to his earlier tweets with a more detailed analysis, including his own excerpt from the rulebook that seems to defend the official’s pause.

Whatever the rule truly is and isn’t makes this whole sequence much more confusing. For how often quick snaps are done in the NFL, it seems unlikely that every single time they are done with less than 20 seconds remaining on the clock or that the opponent is given proper time to evaluate whether or not they want to challenge the previous play.

This was yet another example of inconsistency by NFL officials that has plagued the league for years. It’s one of the main reasons many have called for referees to become full-time employees rather than remaining part-time, to provide more training and education while also being held more accountable for their actions.

Late fourth-quarter out-of-bounds touchdown by Keelan Cole

The worst call of the day came with just seconds left in the game, with the Raiders needing a touchdown to force overtime. With 32 seconds left, Derek Carr threw a 30-yard pass to Keelan Cole in the endzone, which was quickly called a touchdown. Because all scores are reviewed, the play was sent to the New York officials to verify the touchdown.

Once the broadcast began showing the replay, it was clear and obvious to nearly everyone watching that Cole’s toe on his second foot was out of bounds. But as the referees took longer and longer to announce their decision, it was evident they were not going to overturn the score.

When they finally shared the play on the field would stand, photos quickly circulated online, showing the receiver’s toe out of bounds.

It was such a bad call that even DeVante Parker, who was inactive for the game, even tweeted that it was the wrong call.

And ESPN’s Field Yates also tweeted his confusion after seeing the call stand.

Because it was apparent to those watching from the angles of the replay that his toe was out, it begs the question of why there are no pylon cameras? Why is that something that only NBC-called games seem to have? This was a crucial moment in a game with post-season implications for both teams that would’ve greatly benefitted from a camera on the pylon.

Vice President of Officiating Walt Anderson discussed the lack of camera angles when speaking to the press after the game, revealing they did not have a sideline camera to look at when reviewing the touchdown.

"“No, we did not [have that camera]. Probably the best view was what we term a ‘high end zone’ view. TV gave us the most enhanced view that they had as well. We blew it up and I believe TV blew it up and there was nothing that was clear and obvious either way. Had the ruling on the field been incomplete, we would not have been able to change that either.”"

Why don’t they have more camera angles, especially near an endzone? Wouldn’t that be one of the most needed area for more cameras, since every score is said to be reviewed?

When asked how the touchdown stood, since most of those watching could see his toe was out of bounds, Anderson double-downed that there was no “clear and obvious” evidence to overturn the call on the field.

"“We looked at every available angle and it was not clear and obvious that the foot was on the white. It was very tight, very close. There was no shot that we could see – we even enhanced and blew up the views that we had. There was nothing that was clear and obvious that his foot was touching the white.”"

But wouldn’t white powder have been enough to prove his toe had gone out of bounds? That was evident in every photo and replay of the reception.

The NFL officiating official Twitter account posted a statement shortly after the game, which didn’t bring any clarity to the situation nor responsibility from the referees for their disastrous mistake.

Had the touchdown been overturned, the Raiders would have been dealt with a 3rd-and-10 on New England’s 30-yard-line, needing a touchdown to tie the game. That would’ve taken more time off the clock and given the Patriots’ defense another opportunity to prevent them from scoring, furthering their chances of getting a win in Vegas and solidifying a spot in the playoffs.

It’s known that referees will make mistakes, and they happen in every game, every single week. But when their bad calls negatively impact a team in a high-stakes situation, the gravity of the situation becomes more significant. These mistakes happen far too often in those types of games, and s,omething needs to be done by the NFL to limit these instances from happening.